Found by Love - again

 Gate Pa – Passion Sunday 2013


Hebrew Scripture:     Isa 43: 16-21   
Psalm:                         126     
Epistle:                        Philippians 3: 4b-14 
Gospel:                        John 12: 1-8
What I want to say:
*      when we are truly found by love then our only response it to repent (not other way around)
*      when that happens we are radically changed, and invited to live out of that love rather than our own effort
What I want to happen:
People to reflect on/pray about – do I live in response to being found by love, or struggle to earn that love?

The Sermon

      1.      Introduction:

do a recap on last week
we listened to and explored the unfinished story Two Lost Sons
story told because Pharisees and scribes getting antsy about how Jesus seemed to be accepting and honouring tax collectors and sinners by eating with them.
I talked about how younger son found by Fathers love
            at that moment he was found
                        he realised who truly was – beloved son
                        repented of all that stopped him knowing that or living that out
We left other son still locked into seeing self as servant
Unable embrace that he too was beloved son
unable to know that or live that out

      2.      Process of Repentance:

There is an important thing about this story we need to remember
often miss altogether
Both sons were forgiven
            younger realised that and repented,
but only after he realised he was forgiven
            was a beloved son.
            nothing he had done
            as bad and outrageous as that was
                        had changed that
older one – although forgiven – couldn’t even see he had problem
            no response
            continues to behave in his outrageous fashion
so in this story
            father forgives
            son repents
not how usually describe process
            usually we repent, then forgiven
            that’s how confession works week after week in our Sunday services
รจ all about God responding to our initiative
but in this story sons found by love/forgiven first
            then in face of that – younger repented
To be found by love, - that is all God’s initiative
God finds us
God forgives us, always
whether we respond or not
God invites us to remember who we are and to respond to being found. 

      3.      Paul

want to apply that to two of our readings this morning.
Paul had been someone who worked very hard to obey the law and earn his place
            worked hard to be forgiven
Like older son
            desperate earn his place
            a servant of God
On the Road Damascus
met resurrected Christ
Found by love
he was found just as younger son was found
no longer needed to earn God’s forgiveness through own zeal
no longer needed to be Pharisee
simply needed to respond to that love
repent (as heard today) of his zeal and passionate adherence to law
            led him to persecute fledgling church
became changed man
thought and behaved in ways well outside expected norms of his time
            became radical
            many struggled with him from that point on
                        as we can see from today's reading.
always interests me that Paul get used to justify legalistic attitudes and desperation to maintain to status quo.
            old Paul
            new Paul
                        one found by love
                        who lived in response to that love
                        Paul we meet in his letters was neither legalistic nor conservative. 

       4.      Mary

Gospel story this morning is also about someone found by love
            extraordinary story.
this story appears in some form in all 4 gospels
not many that do that
Luke most different from others
            has own Mary and Martha story
            Martha fulfils her obligations while Mary sits and listens
in Luke this version story near beginning gospel
at Pharisees house
a woman comes -> is sinner – prostitute
she weeps on feet and then dries them with hair
then anoints with oil
            Effectively washing feet as host should have done
issue is sinful woman is touching feet
Pharisee not say anything
            but Jesus knows what thinking
            tells story about 2 people in debt
            and rebukes Pharisee lack hospitality
Matthew and Mark – Bethany before last supper
at house Simon skin disease and is Pharisee
unnamed woman - moral status not mentioned
pours expensive oil over his – head
-                      anoint king
-                      prepare burial
some disciples have issue is cost
                        money used for poor
John’s story is mix all these
before Palm Sunday,
            part important role in setting scene for Jesus’s arrest and execution
house of Lazarus – treats him as honoured guest
            clearly part of Judean elite
sister Mary anoints feet with very expensive oil
            wipes with her hair
lets note a few very strange things about this story
while normal custom of hospitality in elite homes for the host to have his slaves wash the feet of guests -
First, Mary performs the action herself – very unusual.
Second, normally a woman would never touch a man except her husband and children - and then only in private.
Third, a woman would never allow anyone other than her immediate family to see her hair.
Fourth, the cleaning of the feet was not done with perfume - especially with the amount mentioned here which would cost a year's wages for a peasant labourer.
Fifth, this not the anointing of the head as was done for installation of a new priest, prophet or king; nor of the whole body as was done for the dead. What does this signify? Malina and Rohrbaugh comment (Page 205, see footnote below):
Jesus is about to do something of singular significance. As a rather wealthy mistress of the house, Mary of Bethany takes it upon herself to acknowledge and affirm Jesus' forthcoming significant action.
all about preparation for burial
                        those crucified often left on cross on public display
                        kill off the ideas of those crucified and end movements
                        birds left consume bodies
                                    thrown into rubbish
                        no burial rights performed on these
issue John is that Judas worried about cost and poor
            John deals with that by describing Judas as thief
                        only interested in own gain
Jesus responds
Jesus said, "Leave her alone. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." 
so what is going on here? 

5.      Being found by love

Mary was found by Love
            but being found by love is dangerous thing
Mary responds to that love by breaking a whole lot of social taboos
            offering that love back to the one who found her.
Act of deep compassion which Jesus recognises.
when we are found by love we are no longer in control
we don’t take the initiative
            God does
            we respond to God
When we are found by love
            we invited to remember who we are
                        that we are God’s beloved
and invited to consider all that prevents us knowing that we are beloved
all that prevent us living that out
leads us inevitably to let go whole lot predetermined ideas about
            who is God
            who we are in God
            what means live Godly life
            at most extreme – become like Paul and Mary
people who shed religious and social constrictions
instead embrace loving freedom comes being Beloved.
stop trying to do everything in own strength
stop needing to have all answers
stop needing to be in control
become willing to simply respond to God
            look for God at work
            join in work reminding all that they are beloved
become people of hope
and as Jim Wallis reminds us hope means believing in spite of the evidence and then watching the evidence change.

6.      Lent

As we approach Holy Week and Easter,
            this is a time to ask whose are we,
                                    who are we,
                                    and what is ours to do?
Invite you to make space to be found by Love,
            to be reminded that we are beloved,
to ask yourself “do I live in response to being found by love?”
what do I need to let go of that stops me knowing that or living that out
So we are now going to confession
we will begin with absolution to remind us that we are already found by love
     we are already forgiven
     we repent because we are forgiven of all that stops us living that out.